HANOI: Communist heavyweights China and Vietnam were swift to lament the death of Fidel Castro on Saturday (Nov 26), with Hanoi's state media leading tributes to the loss of a "great friend and comrade".
Under the stewardship of Castro, the cigar-chomping socialist figurehead who died Saturday aged 90, Cuba showed solidarity with communist Vietnam in its war against US invaders.
State-controlled media in the Southeast Asian nation was awash with tributes to Castro, who led his country from 1959 to 2008 when he handed over power to his younger brother Raul.
Mourning Castro's death the Vietnam News Agency said: "for all Vietnamese, Fidel was a great friend, a comrade and a very close brother".
It added that he had been "a pure symbol of true internationalism in the fight for independence of nations."
Castro, a thorn in America's side, first visited Vietnam in 1973 as a sign of communist kinship two years before the north drove out the US army.
As a sign of those enduring ties, Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang was among the last heads of state to visit the firebrand Cuban revolutionary, meeting Castro on Nov 16.
The adoration extends to the Vietnamese public.
Pham Tran Van, an army colonel during the Vietnam war, told AFP of his admiration for
"Fidel Castro was like our President Ho Chi Minh. He was the symbol of the endless strggle for .... freedom," the 78-year-old added.
"A GREAT MAN OF OUR TIME": XI JINPING
Chinese President Xi Jinping said: "The Chinese people have lost a good and true comrade," in a message read at the beginning of the nightly news on China's main TV channel. "Comrade Castro will live forever."
Castro was "a great man of our time," said the president. "History and people will remember him," he added.
Xi said relations between the two communist nations grew quickly thanks to Castro's efforts after diplomatic ties were established in 1960.
In a documentary aired shortly after Castro's death was announced, China Central Television (CCTV) said that Fidel Castro admired Mao Zedong and "regretted not being able to get to know him."
Even though the two countries shared an ideology, they remained distant due to Cuba's closeness to the Soviet Union, China's rival from the 1960s, until Mao's death in 1976.
There was a rapprochement after the fall of the Soviet Union, with Chinese leaders visiting Cuba several times.
President Xi "visited his old friend Fidel Castro" in July 2014, CCTV said.
Castro visited China for the first time in 1995.